Chief executive contender John Tsang has said in his election platform that there is no reason for the Hong Kong government to delay the legislation of the controversial national security law any longer.
The legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law was scrapped after half a million people marched in protest in 2003. As part of his 18-chapter campaign platform published online on Monday, Tsang said the Basic Law has now been implemented for close to 20 years and the security law should be enacted.
“I believe the main concern is not about whether to legislate or not, but about the details of the law and the legislative procedures,” he wrote. “We will learn from the past mistakes and do our best to legislate for Article 23 with a view to safeguarding the security of our country and Hong Kong and making a law acceptable to the people of Hong Kong.”
His platform was published days after he launched a public fundraising campaign. As of Monday lunchtime, he has raised over HK$4 million.
Tsang said the implementation of Article 23 will take place in a form of “white bill” with a consultation to address people’s concern, and a step-by-step approach.
He said the government must restart the political reform process to achieve dual universal suffrage for the chief executive and legislature, without directly mentioning if he supports Beijing’s 2014 decision that it must vet chief executive candidates. The decision triggered the mass protests occupying streets that year.
“I will, with utmost sincerity, closely communicate with different groups and political parties, and facilitate dialogues among these groups/parties and that with the Central Government, with a view to removing misunderstandings, narrowing differences, finding common grounds and building consensus. When the time is ripe, we will make concrete proposals to meet the people’s aspiration for universal suffrage.”
The platform included major changes to government structure, education, housing and elderly care under the theme “convergence of hearts, proactive enablement.”
“This platform outlines my vision for Hong Kong for the next two to three decades,” he wrote. “I believe that the government’s most urgent task in the next five years, apart from rebuilding trust, unity and hope, is to increase the supply of land and housing, nurture talents and make preparations for an ageing society.”
Tsang proposed a new Culture and Sport Bureau and pledged a significant reorganisation of the structure of the current 13 bureaus through a reshuffling of tasks.
He also proposed shifting the management of some bureaus from the chief secretary to the financial secretary. The former now manages nine bureaus, but under his plan only seven will be under it.
Hong Kong history
There will be a new Secretary for Education & Labour, and a separate mid-ranking Director of Education will be re-established.
He proposed that Chinese history will be an independent, compulsory subject in junior secondary schools and, at the same time, Hong Kong history should be taught: “[T]he birth of the Basic Law and the ‘One Country Two Systems’ concept, will be covered.”
Other measures include abolishing the controversial TSA/BCA tests for all students, new education schemes such as computer programming, and the cultivation of diverse talents with reference to the German vocational education system.
Tsang said using the Chinese Renminbi as the currency for reserve and settlement would help reduce exchange rate risks in trade. If elected, his government will also look into progressive profits tax and negative income tax.
He proposed labour importation for construction, but did not promise a standing work hours legislation but to use contractual hours as a starting point.
He also proposed a means-tested retirement protection system, but a universal pension scheme. He did not directly cancel the controversial MPF offsetting scheme.
Tsang aimed at responding to rising public expectations related to the government.
He wrote that sections 3 and 8 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance should be applicable to the chief executive, and an independent committee will be set up to grant permission for the city’s leader to accept certain advantages.
He said the administration will also invite its Government Chief Information Officer and the Efficiency Unit to review and streamline the workflow in departments and increase technology use to enhance efficiency and transparency.
On housing, Tsang proposed going ahead with the controversial East Lantau Metropolis reclamation plan. The reclamations will form a new central business district as suggested by incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. The New Territories North development will also be conducted.
He said his government would ensure country parks and ecologically sensitive marine areas were not affected.
Other measures include increasing public housing and the supply of home-ownership flats, and reviewing the Small House Policy.